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Shelton ready if needed

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 3, 2008.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Wednesday, Sep 03, 2008
    By Casey Pearce, Chargers.com

    It appears that Chargers offensive tackle L.J. Shelton will be in the starting lineup at left tackle when the Bolts kick off their season against the Carolina Panthers Sunday.

    “I’ve been there before,” Shelton said.

    If he’s on the field, he’ll be responsible for the crucial task of protecting Philip Rivers’ blindside.

    “I’ve been there before,” Shelton repeated.

    He’ll also be matched up against a three-time Pro Bowler who has 56 career sacks.

    “Nothing new to me,” Shelton said shaking his head. “I’m used to being in this position.”

    To be exact, Shelton has “been there” 125 times before, and the fact that he has so much experience is exactly the reason why he is wearing a Chargers uniform in the first place. This spring, the Bolts placed a high priority on adding reliable veterans to solidify their depth along the offensive line.

    “Obviously getting (L.J.) and Jeremy Newberry give us over 200 starts and guys that know how to play and know how to play a variety of positions,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “We felt we got a lot better with those two additions.”

    Newberry will be the club’s starting center until Nick Hardwick returns from offseason foot surgery, and Shelton has essentially been the starter at left tackle throughout training camp. Two-time Pro Bowl tackle Marcus McNeill was sidelined with a neck injury during the first week of camp and missed all four preseason games. Shelton has worked in McNeill’s place with the first team since.

    McNeill and Hardwick were the only two Chargers who didn’t practice Wednesday, and McNeill was absent from Chargers Park while visiting a doctor.

    “We’ll give the official status on Friday,” Turner said.

    Regardless, Shelton is preparing like he’ll be the starter.

    “It’s unfortunate for Marcus and the situation that he’s in,” Shelton said. “I don’t want to take too much joy in it, but this is why I’m here: to step in and not have a whole lot of drop off and the offense be able to move the ball and score points.”

    Shelton will draw one of the key assignments in Sunday’s game. Not only will he try to keep Rivers’ blindside clean, he’ll also be lining up across from one of the NFL’s premier defenders in Julius Peppers. Shelton and Peppers know each other well, having worked out together this spring at Athlete’s Performance in Arizona.

    Peppers spent the first six years of his NFL career on the left side of the defensive line but moved to the right side this offseason. Shelton has locked horns with Peppers before when both players were on the other side of the line, and the 10-year vet has a ton of respect for the three-time Pro Bowler.

    “Julius is a heck of a player,” Shelton said. “He looks comfortable on that side already. He played over there in college but he’s always been on the other side in the NFL. It’s different for him for sure, but it’ll be like riding a bike.”

    Shelton has started at four different positions, all but center, during his career. He spent the 2007 season playing right tackle for the Miami Dolphins but feels just as comfortable on the left side despite the fact that the responsibility is a little different with a right-handed quarterback.

    “It’s just as important that I block my guy as it is the other guys block theirs,” Shelton said. “On the blindside they can’t see him coming, but they’ll put me in a good position to have success as far as mixing up the plays. I’m pretty confident in our ability as an offense and my ability as a player.”

    Several teams had interest in Shelton when he became a free agent this offseason, but the opportunity to be with an organization that has won the third-most games in the NFL over the last four seasons was too good for him to pass up.

    “I felt comfortable with the guys when I came on my visit,” Shelton said. “I felt comfortable with the staff and what they were trying to do here. I cancelled a visit to New England and signed. This is the perfect situation for me. I’m glad to be here and hopefully I can contribute to a win on Sunday."

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